Top 5 SIERA Underperformers

With a little more than a month left in the season, the SIERA underperformer list is less about this year and mostly about next season. You could use the list in two ways: to target pitchers to acquire before your trading deadline (if you have one) that might come cheaper than expected given their SIERA underperformance or to get an early idea of who might be undervalued during next year’s drafts.

Chris Volstad has posted the best skills of his career so far, with the best strikeout and walk rates and second best GB%. Unfortunately, that still leads to a SIERA only a bit below the league average. His BABIP is at .322, the first time it has jumped above the .300 mark, so we cannot immediately say he is simply not Major League caliber and able to post even a league average BABIP. His HR/FB ratio has bounced around dramatically, and although it currently sits at an absurd 17.4%, he actually posted a nearly identical mark in 2009. His real problem has come at stranding runners, as he has only posted a LOB% above 69.6% in 2008, in just 84.1 innings. This could signal some real issues pitching from the stretch, or terrible bullpen support. Maybe even a combination of both. I wouldn’t ever count on him earning a whole lot of NL-Only league value, but I think he has great profit potential next season.

What is interesting is with John Lackey is that his skills are really not far out of line from past seasons. We all know he has been pitching hurt all season, so this is really just a throw away year. The luck metric rules only apply to Major League quality pitchers and an injured Lackey is probably not Major League quality, so that .332 BABIP is probably not just bad luck. A big question mark next year.

I loosened the minimum innings pitched requirement for this list just to ensure Zack Greinke was eligible to make it. He has easily posted the best skill set of his career and has even induced a career best GB%. He could be a top five pitcher next year and there is little chance he will come at a top five cost. The only concern I have is that his average fastball velocity has dipped 1.0 miles per hour. I wonder if that small loss of zip has made the pitch more hittable and contributed to the inflated BABIP.

I was not confident that Brandon Morrow could sustain his improved control all season, but so far aside from the 4.4 BB/9 he posted in May, no other month has been above 3.2. That was really the only missing piece for Morrow as he is a fly ball pitcher and that will be difficult to change. Morrow’s biggest problem this year has been stranding runners, but he has never had issues this bad in the past. One of these years his ERA is going to drop like a rock to well below 4.00, while providing tons of strikeouts. There is no reason not to bet that next season is that year. Of course, he will probably get a lot of sleeper love for the second year in a row, but the good news is that many owners will probably have given up on him after disappointing this year (so far).

Ryan Dempster is basically pitching the way he always has, but his results suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, the issue here is that the Cubs defense stinks, and since that won’t be changing this year, Dempster is likely to continue underperforming his SIERA. The good news is that team defenses sometimes change dramatically from season to season, so this could provide a great opportunity to acquire him cheaply for next season.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

8 Responses to “Top 5 SIERA Underperformers”

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  1. batpig says:

    the problem with a guy like Morrow is that he ends up being OVERvalued instead of undervalued, because of articles like this. The exact same things were said about Morrow last year, and he was a ubiquitous “sleeper” pick in drafts before this season. Enough folks think they are clever and decide he is going to bust out, overdrafts him, and then we have another 4.4 ERA season.

    not that he won’t break out at some point, but the problem is people are paying for it in advance of it happening, overweighting the likelihood of it occurring, which kills the value.

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    • Andy says:

      Ricky Nolasco agrees.

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      Well that’s why I included the sentence “Of course, he will probably get a lot of sleeper love for the second year in a row…”, as you are likely right. But after a second straight disappointing season, many owners will have given up and sworn off the advanced metrics for Morrow. Either way, if he is overvalued, don’t draft him!

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  2. pete says:

    pitchers who have issues dealing with runners on or in scoring position cannot be trusted even if they have a solid SIERA. Pitching out of a jam or in a high leverage situation is an acquired skill, and when a pitcher cannot gets outs in these scenarious his ERA will always exceed his SIERA.

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  3. Shaun Catron says:

    The problem with Brandon Morrow is he has trouble throwing his secondary pitches for strikes. Sure he has a 97-98mph heater but when good major league lineups (AL east…anyone?) sit on his fastball its very hittable. Its why he gets roughed up vs. better lineups and looks untouchable vs. teams who swing at his junk out of the zone (Mariners)

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    • wobatus says:

      Morrow got slightly roughed up twice in a row by the orioles recently (just judging by the runs scored). Last year didn’t he 2 hit the yankees? naturally he should have a harder time against very good line-ups, but it seems to be more a question of him than the opponent. maybe its the strike zone of the ump, Jays d, bad luck, tough time pitching out of a jam, secondary pitches, a lot of variables. Mostly to me it looks like results not matching the peripherals.

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  4. B N says:

    Lackey is all kinds of terrible. Ironically, the FIP and xFIP are still giving him way more love than you would expect also. The only stat that seems to reflect his actual performance was tERA, which affirms that at least one expectation metric knows that he’s sucked this year.

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  5. Dylan says:

    You forgot to mention that the Brew Crew have a bad defense. They might as well put a stick down and if the batter hits it, he is out. Kind of goes in hand with the increased GB% for Greinke. I would attribute a lot of his “bad luck” to the defense of the Brewers.

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